New York is an excellent base for those with a strong case of wanderlust. There are international flights to every corner of the globe, restaurants serving cuisine from countries you’ve never heard of, and frequent gatherings of travel addicts.
But what I sadly didn’t realize during my years living in the city is that New York is surprisingly well-rounded when it comes to another travel-addict necessity: travel bookstores. While internet searches followed by frustratingly fruitless trips around Manhattan showed me that many of these shops have shuttered their doors in recent years, there are still a few going strong. Next time you need a guidebook, a great travel novel or just a bit of inspiration, skip the big chains and head to one of these independent New York City travel bookstores instead.
I must have walked by Idlewild Books, just moments from Union Square, a hundred times during my years in NYC. So how did I never know this place existed? It was probably best for my college years’ productivity that I didn’t because I could lose hours exploring this undeniably charming little space.
Books are grouped by geographic location, with a mixture of guidebooks, novels, memoirs, cultural studies and more. There is even a children’s book section, perfect for inspiring the young traveler. Idlewild also offers a monthly book club and foreign language classes in Spanish, French, and Italian. They’ve recently added a second location in Brooklyn, which I hope means they are doing well and will be around for years to come.
I was deeply impressed by the selection and layout at this store. This is a must-stop shop for New York City visitors or residents who love to explore.
/Address: 12 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011 / Phone: 212.414.8888
Monday – Thursday: 12-7:30
Friday – Sunday: 12-6
Complete Traveller Antiquarian Bookstore
The Complete Traveller bookstore takes specialization to a new level: They feature antique and rare books that are also of the travel genre.
Don’t come here looking for the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Glasgow. Come looking for a fifty-year old signed copy of a book featuring hundreds of tartan designs, a coffee-table tome of highland landscapes, or an age-worn antique map to hang on the wall. This is a place for gifts and keepsakes rather than practical guides or modern memoirs.
/Address: 199 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 / Phone: 212.685.9007 / Email: [email protected]
Monday – Friday: 9:30-6:30
Traveler’s Choice Bookstore
The Traveler’s Choice Bookstore, located in SoHo, is a sister company to Turon Travel. They carry all major guidebook series and a world-wide selection of maps, as well as a few travel accessories. The selection here is nothing to get over-excited about, but if you want a one-stop shop where you can fantasize about a trip and then book it, this travel agency – bookshop hybrid might be the travel bookstore for you.
/Address: 2 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10013 / Phone: 212.941.1535 / Email: [email protected]
Monday – Friday: 9 – 5
Saturday – Sunday: Closed
While this company has an office in NYC that welcomes visitors, it is primarily an online travel bookstore… making it the perfect destination to round out this list for my readers not based in New York! I really love the idea of supporting independent booksellers even if you live miles from anything but a big box store or simply prefer to do your shopping online. You can search their catalog by destination or by curated reading lists.
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I really enjoyed my little tour of New York City’s travel bookstores. Each had their own highlight, but for me the one I will return to again and again is Idlewild. In fact, I love them so much that despite being on a book-buying ban (my suitcase overfloweth) I just had to support them in some way. So instead of buying a book, I bought something for one of you!
To win this $25 giftcard simply subscribe to this blog via RSS or email and then leave a comment telling me your favorite travel book (it can even be a guidebook!). I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner next week. This gift card never expires, so even if you don’t live in NYC, please feel free to enter. You never know when you might find yourself in my favorite city!